Supporting Future Generations

Across the country, Saint Mary’s alumnae come together in their communities to support each other and future students. With 54 alumnae clubs around the United States, Saint Mary’s women stay connected to the College through social events, fundraising, networking, and more.

Nearly six years ago, three women led the Los Angeles Club in a long-range project with the goal to support students from their region of California. Rebecca Votto Bennett ’93, Courtney Parry Talley ’09, and Susan Fitzgerald Rice ’61 got the idea from a Notre Dame ornament and suggested the club take on a similar project.

Pictured left to right: Maureen Cassidy ‘71, Beth McPherson ‘81, MaryKay Scheid ‘88, Lucy Da Giau ‘83, Katy Penna ‘88, and Moira Michiels ‘88

Once the club members solidified the idea, they put their heads together and developed a series of Christmas ornaments with beautiful campus scenes. With a PowerPoint in hand, they approached College administrators to get their approval and support—and the project was on its way.

In 2015, the first ornament was released at Reunion Weekend. The brass etched scene of The Avenue sold out quickly and was followed in the years to come with four more designs including Le Mans Hall Entry, View from Lake Marian, Holy Cross Hall, and the French Cross.

The initial goal of the LA Club was to raise $40,000 for its scholarship fund. To date, ornament sales have contributed more than $52,000 to the fund and the club voted to extend the fundraiser program.

Bennett first got involved with the Saint Mary’s Chicago East Alumnae Club when she lived there from 1996–2004. She recognized how being involved in the club could support future generations of women and make the College stronger. When she moved back to LA, she got involved there and encourages other alumnae to do the same in their own communities.

“The relationships I made at Saint Mary’s are so important to me,” Bennett said. “As an alumna, I want to give back.”

Graduates often lament leaving campus, but alumnae clubs offer a similar community of supportive women with the incredible shared experience of their time on campus—regardless of their class years. They also provide Saint Mary’s women an opportunity to pay it forward with events such as “Send Off” and care packages for students from their area. And sometimes, it’s just about being with women with similar values for social gatherings and book clubs.

Bennett shares that alumnae clubs provide a great way to connect, be of use, and get involved in her own community with women she enjoys. “It’s sort of like taking the time to do yoga—I’ve never felt sorry after a session. Every time I’ve done something with a club or for Saint Mary’s in the city that I live in, I’ve never walked away from it feeling disappointed. I’ve always felt better connecting with other alumnae and with the College.”

Bennett has since moved to New York, but as an LA native, when the LA Club leadership asked for her continued assistance with the ornament program, she was happy and honored to stay involved. “We’re working now to take an approach that will help make the program sustainable over time,” she said, acknowledging the incredible volunteer bandwidth that is needed to carry out such a large project year over year.

The LA Club is busy planning the next several years’ designs, as well as developing resources, how-to’s, and solid committees. The actual packaging and fulfillment is probably the most daunting of tasks, yet year after year, they meet to insert informative sheets and carefully apply gold bows to the blue boxes that deliver the treasured ornaments.

And while many enjoy reminiscing about Saint Mary’s each year as they place the gold icons and scenes of campus on their trees, the true gift is the support lent to the next generation of graduates. After all, the world needs more Saint Mary’s women.